I Am an Active Bystander
by Taylor Derrisaw | published Oct. 12th, 2016
“I am Brave.” “I am Supportive.” “I am Caring.” “I am Aware.”
These words were branded into black T-shirts handed out by the Tigers Care Committee, an initiative designed to encourage students to act as active bystanders. Often referred to as “Good Samaritans,” active bystanders are individuals who watch over the people around them in situations that can easily get out of control, or who help their fellow students and friends by watching out for them in times of need.
After numerous student deaths were reported at RIT, both administration and concerned students realized something was needed to reach out to people who were struggling within the community, and as a result, the Tigers Care Steering Team was created. The division of Student Affairs hopes to motivate students to help other students. This is a trend in many universities, partially as a result of Title IX, which strives to prevent institutions from discriminating on the basis of sex and eliminate sexual assault.
Donna Rubin, assistant vice president for Student Wellness, has been spearheading the movement, which encourages students to act when they see something that seems out of the ordinary. Tigers Care is entirely centered around students actively watching out for each other, creating a more caring and supportive campus community.
“In terms of 'active bystander,' there’s a lot out there at other universities. We want people to be particularly aware. We want to have our own brand or flavor.”
“Just look around you. If someone is sitting around or looks lonely, just lend a hand. Even just a smile could make all the difference,” Rubin said.
This year, Rubin has placed emphasis on raising awareness for what an active bystander is in an effort to get students to be one for people they know. By handing out T-shirts with phrases like “I am Brave,” they are challenging students to watch out for their colleagues.
Rubin hopes to make Tigers Care more active through different events and outreach efforts. This, she hopes, will involve students in more than just taking T-shirts.
“In the future, we would like to have a questionnaire that says, ‘If you were in this situation would you respond A, B, C?’ and we have different scenarios … We would like students to have T-shirts, we just want them to learn something on the way to getting a T-shirt,” she said.
In addition to the questionnaire, Rubin wants to include a wheel that Title IX coordinators frequently use which will help students understand how they can react to different situations. She hopes to include these in conjunction with other events, such as I “Heart” Female Orgasm.
“You spin the wheel and it goes to number five, and number five is a question: ‘If you were in this situation what would you do?’ ”
With regards to feedback, Rubin said students are really interested in the idea and want to learn more about how they can be an active bystander.
"I would hope that the campus becomes even warmer toward each other, that more students would know their resources,” Rubin said. She hopes that mores students come forward with ideas or ways to improve the Tigers Care program.
"It's an embrace-your-community effort."
“It’s an embrace-your-community effort,” she said.
Rubin expressed interest in gathering feedback from students on ways in which they can improve Tigers Care. “I welcome ideas. I want to hear from students if they want to be involved," she said.